CompostPeak Oil

Jean Pain Composting – All the Energy You Need, From the Garden

by Benjamin Falloon,

My partner Nina Grundner and I have just finished translating a 15 minute german video documentary short on the frenchman Jean Pain. For those unfamiliar with his work, I’ll quote wikipedia verbatim….

Jean Pain (1930 – 1981) was a French innovator who developed a compost based bioenergy system that produced 100% of his energy needs. He heated water to 60 degrees celsius at a rate of 4 litres a minute which he used for washing and heating. He also distilled enough methane to run an electricity generator, cooking elements, and power his truck. This method of creating usable energy from composting materials has come to be known as Jean Pain Composting, or the Jean Pain Method. – Wikipedia

Watch the clips here:

Part 1

Part 2

If you’re interested in learning more about his methods, there is a ebook available titled "Another Kind of Garden". You can purchase a copy here. The checkout process is in French, but you can get the english version.

Please feel free to distribute these video links to any people you might find will benefit or enjoy this information. To my knowledge, this is the only footage of Jean Pain accessible to english speakers.


  1. I have seen quite a few articles and videos on this. People are doing it all over and i plan on trying this outthis winter. If i do i will make a video to upload. Its a great idea when you know you can get all the free wood chips/animal poo you want in the US.

  2. Georgie and I have constructed 3 “compost shower” piles to date, based on the above from Mr.Pain, with absolute success. Our first attempt was a trial run prior to our first residential PDC when we needed to provide “hot” showers (if such a thing is needed where Cashews grow!) for 30 people for 2 weeks. The first pile had the normal compost materials and heated water to just over 40 C but lacked a little moisture during construction. Our next attempt was built by the 26 students at the start of the PDC and to ensure it worked and got to temperature we loaded it up with lots of manure, green material and watered it well. The result was closer to 50 C 24 hrs later and the need for a cold feed! In the pile we coiled 100 meters of 1 inch high density rural pipe which gave everyone a 4 minute shower with a 4 minute recharge. This pile lasted more than 3 months and into the next PDC we ran in March 09. After a couple of people suggested we could ramp up the temperature, we deconstructed the pile, gave it a couple of turns and produced the most amazing “Craptonite” we’d seen. A new pile was built and by the following morning the heat had kicked in. We erred on the side of caution this time and added less moisture, green material and manure to see if we could adjust the single feed temperature to a bearable level. It has worked and now 2 months later we still have a nice luke warm shower but at 400 mtrs above sea level and evenings cooling, it might be time to build another pile. We haven’t as yet incorporated the gas production but as far as producing our hot water needs and great compost from 45 minutes work, 4 times a year……you can’t go wrong.

  3. I woud love to know more about what goes into the gas tank in the middle of the pile and how they capture, compress and use it etc.

  4. We were also thinking that the water pipe (pumping 4 litres of hot water per minute- no matter what the weather!) could perhaps be led into an under floor heating system, within an earth adobe floor, as well as being used for showers, sinks etc. The grey water used in shower/sinks can then be used to irrigate your indoor (see Earthships) or outdoor food forest. Water not used as shower/sinks could be sent back to get reheated & reused.
    Under earth water heating could also work to heat greenhouses, for colder climate winter food production?
    The underfloor heating would work well with Cal Earth self-build superadobe houses (costing about 3000 Aussi dollars to build, by 3 people over a fortnight – think of that in forest fire areas – stable up to 6.5 on the Richter scale, hurricane & burn-proof! Far more sustainable than erecting metal sheds or timber housing in fire-ravaged areas, at a tiny fraction of the cost. You can get plans for about 3,200 US dollars for a fast 40sq metre small home – which you can replicate dozens of times in multiple variations – cheap eco homes that will last for decades, if not centuries & are insanely easy to build.)
    This Pain heating/gas technology,used alongside permaculture, would also work incredibly well with an Earthship, alongside their solar energy collection & use. Earthships, pioneered by Mike Reynolds are also sustainable homes made using tires, cans, bottles, in a rammed-earth super-insulated structure that is completely off grid. No water, electricity of fuel bills ever again! A stout finger at environment destroying corporations & our insane (collapsing) financial systems.
    Building an Earthship or Cal Earth home means that you can utilize land that is cheap – as you don’t need utilities, you can build on mountainsides, or crappy quality land that others consider useless, or have depleted & left for dead. You are getting all you need from rainwater, solar & technologies like Pain’s – perfect partnerships with permaculture. Both Earthships & Cal Earth homes come with plans that are incredibly planning-authority friendly – extremely practical & hopefully saving a lot of heartache/time, as they are tried & tested. Cal Earth homes even come NASA a approved.
    We think that open-source ecology, which is fledgling and just emerging will be a fantastic future partner to these self-sustaining ways of living by making technologies easy to access via the web.
    We are planning to put these magic ingredients together in Taz….

  5. I have been aware of Jean Pains methods for some years – think it was an article in Permaculture Magazine (UK) 15+ years ago.

    I’ve recently spent time searching on the web for any recent examples of people using his methods. Lots of people appear to be making hot water but I have not been able to find anyone making gas.

    Does anyone know anywhere where they are doing this?

    From what I can tell from their website the Belgium centre is mainly concerned with promoting composting -although I’m heading to Belgium soon so may give them a visit.

  6. Has anyone built a jean pain composting water heater and connected it to a radiant floor heating system?

    I’d like to see some specs and pumping rates for this method. Also any info on pipe types (polyethylene vs. pex), pipe diameters, lengths of ‘radiators’, and other details like this would be very useful.


  7. Yes we heat our campsite shower water this way with 100 m of 25mm diameter, 2 cubic meters of compost, 4 minute hot water shower with a 5 minute recharge.

  8. we have an abundant supply of Manuka tea tree on our property and wonder if anyone has knowledge of using it in a heat generating compost. Im a little scepticle because of the oil content

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